How civil society is protecting forests and Indigenous Peoples’ rights in Congo – Fern
Nina Cynthia Kiyindou is a lawyer, and head of Natural Resources and Forest Community Rights at Fern’s partner, Observatoire Congolais des Droits de l'Homme (OCDH). OCDH was created in Brazzaville in 1994 by a group of journalists, lawyers and teachers, with the aim of promoting human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Congo. Nina works with forest peoples and Indigenous communities promoting their collective rights, and has been with OCDH since 2008. Before then, she was a consultant and researcher specialising in Indigenous Peoples’ laws.
Here she outlines how OCDH is tackling the deep-seated, complex problems many forest communities face when conservation and logging operations arrive in their areas, as vividly highlighted in Laudes Martial Mbon’s accompanying article.
Q: How did you come to work on the challenges facing Indigenous Peoples and forest communities?
A: Initially, OCDH wasn’t interested in forestry issues. Its mandate was solely to promote and defend ‘classical’ human rights. But our work on Indigenous Peoples’ rights began when we then published a report in 2006 in which the extent of the problems communities faced - particularly from the forestry companies - was strikingly evident.
Q: What are the biggest challenges Congo’s forest communities face?
A: One big challenge for Indigenous Peoples and local communities, is that they cannot effectively participate in forest management and forest processes. Forest management is at the local level. The forest processes are the Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPA), Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+), Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) and the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI).
Communities don’t have effective access to protected areas. There is a law on wildlife and protected areas that protects the rights of use, but it’s not enforced. There are many conflicts between forest communities and the agencies that manage the parks.
People rely on these areas for non-timber forest products (NTFP), including game and bark, leaves and bones.
Securing customary land rights is another big hurdle for communities. Beyond customary rights, the law requires registration [land titling] and imposes various conditions. The challenge for communities facing complex and unjust laws, is comparable to the land grabbing phenomenon, which emanates from forestry projects, as well as mining, agro-industrial and infrastructure ventures.
When a company signs an agreement with the state, it must take certain measures in favour of the communities. The implementation of these obligations requires regular monitoring. But many companies make social obligation commitments but do nothing. And communities have a real problem in tracking these commitments.
Another problem is the management of Local Development Funds (LDF): they are only present in developed areas. It is a profit-sharing mechanism where the company collects 200 Central African Francs (0.3 Euro) per cubic meter of timber and pays it to the LDF. Normally, communities can tap into this fund to carry out economic activities, but it is very difficult for them to develop projects that meet the FDL's requirements. Funds are also widely misappropriated.
Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, hosted a series of three workshops from 14 to 25 June 2021 at the Hotel PEFACO Maya Maya. The first workshop focused on the planning and consultation of the Network of Young Leaders for the Sustainable Management of Central African Forest Ecosystems (REJEFAC), the second on the Network of Parliamentarians for the Sustainable Management of Central African Forest Ecosystems (REPAR) and the third on the African Women's Network for Sustainable Development (REFADD).
Central Africa currently has more than 200 protected areas covering a total of 800 000 km², or twice the size of Cameroon. Across the 10 countries of the region, the number and size of protected areas have doubled in the last 20 years.
The Honourable Dr. Christian Ruck, Federal Republic of Germany CBFP Facilitator gives a new impetus to the implementation of the N'Djaména Declaration - Douala (Cameroon) - 12 to 15 July 2002, an Expert follow-up meeting to the N’Djamena Conference was held to develop country investment plans geared towards transboundary transhumance, zoonoses, the fight against transboundary poaching, security and sustainable development between the Sahel and the Congo Basin. The Country Expert Meeting was held with the financial support of the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the technical support of the Federal Republic of Germany CBFP Facilitation and the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ), GIZ BSB Yamoussa Project. The Press Release, the proposed political / institutional support, the roadmap for country investment plans and N’Djamena 2 and the task force specifications are available for download on the CBFP website...
On 19 July 2021, during its 44th session, the World Heritage Committee decided to remove Salonga National Park (Democratic Republic of the Congo) from the List of World Heritage Sites in Danger due to improvements in its state of conservation.
The human-wildlife conflict report: “A future for all: the need for human-wildlife coexistence” was published on July 8, detailing the complex nature of human-wildlife conflict, its impacts and how to address them so that people and animals can coexist peacefully. This pack raises awareness of the report, its significance and encourages people to raise greater awareness on the issue.
The weather in DS continues to be strange this year. In principle we should be going through a short dry period within the rainy season at the moment, for the rains to restart in August but the reality is that the rainy season has not yet started. There is so much uncertainty on what will happen now.
The Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board at its twenty-ninth meeting, has allocated USD 500 million in GCF resources for new climate projects, and taken significant steps to strengthen results management for its growing portfolio. During the meeting, four (04) new climate projects were approved and will mobilise a total sum of USD 2,949 million for climate action in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, with three of the four new projects targeting support to the most vulnerable countries including Least Developed Countries, Small Island Developing States, and African states.
The Heads of State and Government of the 30 members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) have adopted NATO 2030, “a transatlantic agenda for the future,” as well as a Climate Change and Security Action Plan. The Action Plan provides a framework to deliver on the Climate Change and Security Agenda endorsed by NATO Foreign Ministers on 23-24 March 2021. The NATO Deputy Secretary-General said the decisions make the fight against climate change an important task for NATO for the first time.
The UNFCCC’s Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) met online for three weeks in June 2021. The two subsidiary bodies held plenaries as well as mandated and Presidency-led events. Delegates also convened informal consultations on a range of issues in the lead up to the Glasgow Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 26), which is scheduled to take place in November 2021.
UN Climate Change News, 25 June 2021 – The progress made at the May-June UN Climate Change Conference leaves the international community “well positioned to achieve success” at the crucial UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow in November, according to UN Climate Change Deputy Executive Secretary, Ovais Sarmad.
UN Climate Change News, 29 June 2021 - The UN Climate Change online portal to register Parties, admitted observers and media representatives to attend the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 (31 October – 12 November 2021) in Glasgow is open for participants.
This is the subject of a new book published by the Faculty of Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech of the University of Liege, Nature+ and their collaborators. This book focuses on the species of dense rainforests, capitalizing on the results of past or recent trials in six African countries, and mobilizing the skills and knowledge of thirteen specialists.
Rwanda, the first African country to submit an updated 2020 NDC, is displacing GHG emissions from fossil fuel power generation and expanding energy access to areas not served by the national grid. Rwanda intends to add more than 150 MW of hydro capacity to the grid and install 68 MWp of solar mini-grids in rural areas by 2030.
The Least Developed Countries Fund, the only dedicated source of climate adaptation support for the world’s smallest and most vulnerable economies, will provide more than $60 million to address urgent needs in Bhutan, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Kiribati, Lesotho, Somalia, and Timor-Leste under its latest work program.
The report on Tax and non-tax incentives for sustainable forest management presents an analytical overview of potential incentives for sustainable management of tropical forests as well as possible deterrents. The aim is to help ITTO producer member countries develop incentives that are equally effective and fruitful in promoting the sustainable development of their forests.
Joseph Dion Ngute's decision was signed on May 5, 2021. This is the culmination of a case that captivated the nation’s attention in August 2020. In a decree signed on May 5, 2021, Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute repealed another decree, dating back from 2016, signed at the time by his predecessor, Philemon Yang, expropriating 66,340 hectares of land in the Ntem Valley, South Region.
During the official opening of the ECOFAC6 Regional Programme’s Steering Committee, (organized in Douala, Cameroon from 4 to 6 May) EU Ambassador, Ms. Rosario Bento-Pais, recalled that the EU invests more than 80 million Euros in the ECOFAC6 Programme. The other 17 million are invested by the partners. Amounting to approximately 100 million Euros, the investment makes ECOFAC6 the largest European environmental programme in Central Africa and a one-of-the-kind initiative in the world.
The meeting held on Monday 3rd May 2021 at the Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife of Cameroon. The Facilitator thanked the Ministry for the positive response it had given to the Declaration of the ECCAS/COMIFAC countries for the forests of the Congo Basin and its periphery.
CBFP Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany, Honorable Dr. Christian Ruck, undertook a mission in Gabon from the 9th to the 14th of May 2021. Dr Christian Ruck met in turn with: the Prime Minister; the Minister Delegate for Water, Forests, the Sea and the Environment; the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Food; the Vice-President of the ECCAS Commission; the Commissioner for the Environment, Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Development; the National Climate Council...
During his mission to Gabon from 09 to 14 May 2021, the CBFP Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany, Honorable Dr. Christian Ruck, had a working session with Gabonese civil society accompanied by the German Ambassador to Gabon.
The dynamics of the CBFP in Cameroon, how to enhance the conservation and sustainable management of the forests of the Congo Basin while preserving their vital role for the regional and global climate were at the heart of the political (MINFOF, MINFI, MINEPAT, parliamentarians) and technical discussions.
Video Conference - May 20, 2021. The CBFP private sector college held a special meeting. Moderated by the Co-Leader of the CBFP private sector college, Ms. Jacqueline Van de Pol (ATIBT), the meeting gathered close to twenty participants.
As the CBFP announced on its website, it will be managed until 2022 by the Facilitation team of the Federal Republic of Germany with Honourable Dr Christian Ruck serving as Facilitator, assisted by the Co-Facilitator, Minister Raymond Mbitikon of the Central African Republic. The Facilitation’s mandate was originally scheduled to end in 2021.
Thursday, 06 May 2021: Starting from 11:45 am, a luncheon was held in the Safoutier Hall of the Hilton Hotel between the Congo Basin Forest Partnership (CBFP) Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Cameroonian Delegation of the Network of Parliamentarians for Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems in Central Africa (REPAR-Cameroon).
Representatives of 184 countries have approved a new work program for the Least Developed Countries Fund, which together with the Special Climate Change Fund has provided more than $2 billion to date for the urgent climate resilience needs of small and vulnerable economies.
The briefing reflects on progress after a decade of implementation including looking at multi stakeholder participation, increased transparency and reduced illegal deforestation. It suggests concrete ways to address challenges and step up current efforts including increased enforcement of just laws, enhanced policy coherence, and inclusive decision making. If the proposed changes are taken on board, VPAs will continue to effectively contribute to governance improvements, forest protection and sustainable local livelihoods.
The Forest Scientific and Technical Council (CST Forêt) of AFD has a new website that presents its activities and provides users with numerous resources and news. Created in 2019 by AFD and led by GRET, the CST aims to enhance French and Francophone expertise in the forestry sector in order to inform policymakers.
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The month of May has already ended and the rainy season has not yet started. Although it has rained some days, it is just a few days compared to a normal year and the level of the Sangha River remains relatively low...
Central African countries' commitments to landscape restoration have the potential to deliver about three times more the climate benefits of all GCF allocations to date… These Central African commitments represent 24% of global commitments and 28% of African countries' commitments under the Bonn challenges...
The Central African Forests Observatory (OFAC) presents an updated assessment of the state of protected areas in the ten member countries of the Central African Forests Commission (COMIFAC). Join us on 29 June 2021, 11:00 AM dans Bruxelles for the launch of this publication. Interpretation English-French will be available.